Editor's note: In its origins, the TASTE OF CHAOS tour was frequently deemed “Winter Warped” by both fans and organizers. The 2006 road show took place in the late winter and early spring, featuring lineups populated by some of the most diverse voices in the scene, including bands like My Chemical Romance, the Used, Underoath, Killswitch Engage, Deftones, Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold and 30 Seconds To Mars. For the next few weeks, we are going to go back in our time capsules to revisit some of the names that not only cemented TOC as a formidable adjunct to Warped Tour's summer mania, but as a festival of great merit curated on its own aesthetic terms.
As the reactivated TOC begins its next chapter with a touring lineup of Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin and many others, we'll be starting this weekly special “Taste Of Tuesday,” where we'll look back at the bands participating at the point of their original zeitgeist.
Our second TOT installment revisits the first-ever cover appearance of the mighty Taking Back Sunday as part of our 100 Bands You Need To Know In 2003 issue (AP 176). Here we learn about the time crew from Midtown and Recover had to peel one TBS member off a theatre floor in Buffalo, New York; guitarist John Nolan's stint in a faith-based college; and some high praise from Victory Records' Tony Brummel. “They're not an emo band,” says the label's founder. “They're a hardcore band that sings about smarter things.”
Story by Jenny Tatone//Photography by Rudy Archuleta
It was at Buffalo, New York’s Showplace Theater, the fourth night into Taking Back Sunday’s September tour with Midtown and Recover, when Adam Lazzara officially paid his dues. TBS’ excitable singer hopped onstage during Midtown’s headlining set to—in typical fashion—raise the roof. Y’know, crank up the action factor.
“You know how hip-hop dudes have the hype guy?” says Lazzara, sounding both whimsical and high-strung. “I was being the hype guy, and when I got to the edge of the stage, I lost my footing and ate shit.”
More precisely, Lazzara ate metal. At stage right, he tripped, fell face first off the stage and smashed his head into a steel barricade, knocking himself unconscious and clinging to the cold floor like a magnet to a refrigerator door. The bouncers mistook him as a rowdy kid from the crowd and, attempting to pull him from the area, yanked his right leg so forcefully, they dislocated his hip. Midtown guitar tech Jeff Pereira and Recover bassist Ross Tweedy rushed over, lifted the lean, out-cold Lazzara and removed him from the venue to load him into a waiting ambulance. “He was bleeding all over the place,” Pereira recalls. “It was pretty disgusting.”
Lazzara could have lied. He could have easily passed off his five-foot fall as a gutsy stage dive. After all, many of his witnesses thought that was exactly what happened. But Lazzara wouldn’t do that. In fact, he couldn’t do that. Exposing his hard truths through music and unearthing his deepest emotions onstage, Lazzara wants nothing more than to be real. No, Adam Lazzara just went wild and lost himself onstage. This time, he just happened to lose his balance, too. But, like a sacrificial lamb to the gods of rock ’n’ roll, Lazzara always gives it up for the almighty power of music.
“It’s just his personality,” explains Pereira. “That’s where he comes alive is onstage; where he lets it all out. He’s definitely one of my favorite people to watch onstage.”
For his service in the name of rocking out, Lazzara received an overnight stay at the hospital, three head X-rays, 75 stitches just below his hairline on his forehead and above his left eyebrow, loads of drugs and a cane, which he was forced to walk with until a week before Christmas.
“I was all black-eyed and messed up,” Lazzara says, laughing. “I should start running and using a jump rope, like the Oprah diet.”
With music as fiery as theirs and performances as potent, injury comes not as the result of clumsiness but, doubtlessly, of a heart that devoutly bleeds too much. How else could Taking Back Sunday’s fans be so moved?
“I guess walking around with piercings or different-colored hair or riding a skateboard [in a North Carolina hick town] wasn’t exactly the cool thing to do. I got beat up a good number of times there.” —Adam Lazzara
The three-year-old Amityville, New York quintet aren’t your run-of-the-mill rock band with alternative tendencies. Their story brims with earnestness, hopelessness, sincerity, troubled backgrounds, intuition, anxiety, intelligence, sinking self-esteem and, most significant of all, an undying quest for what is true, translating into original music that hits you and moves you. TBS—Lazzara, guitarist/songwriter John Nolan, guitarist Ed Reyes, bassist Shaun Cooper and drummer Mark O’Connell—understand something about making music, or any sort of art, for that matter, that many of the most successful mainstream acts don’t.
“A big part about being able to make honest music and emotional music is being able to look at yourself honestly and dig into yourself,” Nolan says. “Tear into yourself with the same viciousness that you would tear into somebody else.”
And being able to find your truths and offer them for the world to try to understand is no easy feat. It is such loyalty to honesty that makes TBS’ music so moving, allowing them to avoid the manufactured, superficial feel of many popular bands today.
“If we were smart,” jokes Lazzara, “we would just have somebody else write songs for us. That seems to be the trend now.
“Everybody loves brutal honesty, period,” he continues. “That’s just something that you expect from other people. If a band can tap into that and not make something up, that’s what will make them.”
It’s certainly what has helped make TBS’ debut album, Tell All Your Friends, the fastest-selling record ever released on independent hardcore label Victory Records. “They’re going to be the biggest band in the history of Victory Records,” says Victory owner and A&R rep Tony Brummel. “There’s a certain aspect of danger and erratic-ness to what they do that’s made it very unique, very original and very artistic.”
The band’s 29-year-old elder, Reyes—an Amityville native who rounded up plenty of experience playing for emo-inspired rockers the Movielife and seminal hardcore band Inside—founded TBS in November 1999. After the band’s original vocalist, Antonio Garcia, quit in December 2000, Lazzara stepped up from the bass to the mic, fronting the group with help from Nolan. Bringing in Cooper on bass two months later, the band found their lineup complete. TBS released their first demo, a five-song CD, in February 2001, and 10 months later, signed to Victory. Working with producer Sal Villanueva and engineer Tim Gilles (who worked on Thursday’s Full Collapse) at New Jersey’s Big Blue Meenie Studios, the band emerged to deliver a potent album. Tell All Your Friends (titled in celebration of hardcore’s integral word-of-mouth channels) is packed with desperate dual vocals, urgent, thrashing riffs and an impassioned spirit.
Lazzara first met the band nearly two years ago when they played a show near his hometown in the High Point/Greensboro, North Carolina, area, and jokingly suggested he join. “I was like, ‘You need a bass player? ’Cause I hear Long Island boys get all the girls,’” he recalls, laughing. “Then Eddie took it seriously, and the next thing I knew, I was driving up to New York.”
It’s surely Lazzara’s and Nolan’s not-so-average upbringings that have contributed to the depth and dysfunction within their songwriting. Raised just outside of Manhattan in the small town of Baldwin, Nolan spent 12 years attending Christian school and missing out on what he calls “a normal high-school experience.”
“It was a pretty strange little sheltered environment,” he says. “It’s a very bad experience, [but] as much as I hated it, I didn’t want to leave; my only friends were there. And I was completely socially retarded from going to that school!” Discovering worthwhile music wasn’t easy, either. “My exposure to music was pretty bad—a lot of bad Christian metal and hair rock.”
While Nolan gave in languidly to the confinements of Christian schooling, Lazzara attempted to break out every chance he could. “I spent more time figuring out ways to stay out of school than to actually go to school,” says the singer. Enduring the divorce of his parents and the subsequent jumps from town to town and school to school, Lazzara was uprooted so many times that for him, learning to trust or commit was lost in a sea of constant re-adaptation. And attending a few different high schools in a North Carolina “hick town” was hardly welcoming. “I guess walking around with piercings or different-colored hair or riding a skateboard wasn’t exactly the cool thing to do,” he says. “I got beat up a good number of times there.”
Though he suffered a childhood neither of torture nor of neglect, Lazzara seems like he’s struggling with the aftermath of stability lost. “I’m an unstable roller coaster, and no matter how fine I make myself out, it’s always…” he concedes before stopping himself to come up with an example. “Like having relationships with people, I have a really hard time, because I don’t know who to trust. I’m very much known for being totally cool one second and then running off and locking myself in the bathroom the next.
“I’m convinced something’s wrong with me, and there’s no way to fix that,” he continues. “And no matter what kind of solution is offered, whether it be through some help a doctor could give or drinking yourself stupid, there’s nothing to really pin it down to.”
“They’re not an emo band. They’re a hardcore band that sings about smarter things.”—Victory Records owner and A&R rep Tony Brummel
Lazzara’s tone when touching on such topics sounds at once disturbed and acquiescent, exuding the notion that he’s at peace with his troubles, thanks to the outlet provided by music and the good fortune brought onto the band. “If it wasn’t for having the opportunity to be doing what I’m doing and being this fortunate, I don’t think I’d be around.”
It didn’t take long for TBS fans to tell all their friends about the new band they loved. Less than a year after the release of their first album, the band are already selling out mid-sized venues across America. “They stand out from their peers because they really are performing; they really are getting their emotions out,” says Victory’s Brummel. “I call Adam a young Iggy Pop ’cause he does things that Iggy did to himself when he was young; that’s the true expression of art. It’s not as if Adam’s contemplating the theatrics that he’s going to do. He just does it, and it happens; sometimes it’s scary, but that’s what makes everyone so enamored by the band.”
“If it wasn’t for these kids that come out and wait outside before we play, shake our hand after the show, then what we did wouldn’t mean shit to other people,” Lazzara says.
“We’re so constantly amazed by the support and the love and this emotion we’ve gotten from people,” Nolan says in agreement. “We’re very thankful for the people who have stuck with us and told other people about us.”
“A lot of bands would say that music is their outlet, when they’re just out there to get paid, do this thing, move onto the next thing and be your regular typical American,” adds Brummel. “These guys definitely do not fit into that category.”
“The kids that come out to the shows and sing along, they could care less if it’s called ass-rock or fucking poo-rock. There’s something about it that they understand. And that makes so much sense.”—Adam Lazzara
It’s hard to say TBS fit into any category, yet the industry has settled on the emo tag. A notoriously unclear and misunderstood genre, emo rose from the ashes of hardcore when bands began trading in the tough-guy exterior for a more emotionally revealing heart-on-the-sleeve approach. But two decades have diluted and exploited emo, obscuring what defines it today. Even TBS are far removed from emo’s origins, creating a style of music that is much more their own than a descendent of the past.
“They’re not an emo band,” says Brummel. “They’re a hardcore band that sings about smarter things.”
TBS are unconcerned with which label they’re stuck with and believe their fans to be, too. In a world where high-gloss, hollow music invades homes daily, brainwashing and convincing impressionable youth to bare midriffs and toss musical sensibility out the window, it’s comforting to know that people are believing in what Taking Back Sunday have to offer.
“The kids that come out to the shows and sing along, they could care less if it’s called ass-rock or fucking poo-rock,” says Lazzara. “There’s something about it that they understand. And that makes so much sense.” alt